Published On: Fri, Mar 7th, 2014

Four months after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, the wounds are deep – but the healing has begun

 

TACLOBAN, Philippines, 6 March 2014 – Loss cuts deep here, four months after one of the most powerful and destructive typhoons on record killed more than 6,000 people.

Today, as the Philippines continues to recover and rebuild, 13-year-old Jerome Nabong wades through the ankle-deep water where his house used to stand. The house was perched on sticks, over the water, until Typhoon Haiyan swept it away.

This stretch of the coast was covered with hundreds of these homes, before 8 November. Now, the houses are gone, and remnants of a few dozen sticks stand in the water.

 

Jerome spends a part of each day here, wading in the water, or at water’s edge. He looks for coins, for anything of value that might help his family – his parents, himself, his five siblings – obtain food. They shelter in a rickety shack built, like before, on sticks, over the water. The roof is a plastic tarpaulin. You can see the sea through the cracks between the floorboards.

“My children get scared when the weather turns bad,” says Jerome’s mother, Vilma.

“They cry and cry, and want to evacuate to an emergency        shelter, even if it’s a small gust of wind, because they have flashbacks        of the typhoon.”

Coping with trauma

To help children like Jerome and his brothers and sisters        recover from the trauma of the storm, UNICEF has been working with its        partners to train teachers, day care workers and education authorities        to provide psychosocial support.

Some 17,000 children in affected areas now have access to 89        child-friendly spaces, which give them a safe place to play and learn        key life skills. One such space is set up just down the road from        Jerome’s shack, at the Tacloban City Convention Centre, which many        people call the ‘Astrodome’.

Returning to learning

Part of a child’s recovery is getting back into school as quickly as possible.

To date, UNICEF and its partners have provided 430,000 children with learning materials, in affected areas.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/NYHQ2014-0262/Pirozzi
Raymart Fabe, Grade 2, is back in school. He lives with his sisters and his father in a temporary shelter near Tacloban. Raymart’s mother was among the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

For Jerome and his family, clean drinking water is a top        concern. They are among the 930,000 people for whom UNICEF has restored        access to safe water.

Jerome and his family received a kit with a portable plastic        jug and water purification tablets. They also received a UNICEF hygiene        kit with toothbrushes, toothpaste, sanitary napkins and bath and laundry        soap.

Keeping up with jabs

The storm destroyed health care centres, which meant that many services were stopped suddenly – including routine immunizations.

In places like the island of Panay, UNICEF-supported health        teams are traveling to remote areas and going door to door to register        children for vaccination. Since November, more than 80,000 children have        been vaccinated against measles and polio. Some 55,000 children        received vitamin A supplementation as part of a campaign that also        screened for malnutrition.

Ruth Catalan has brought her 17-month-old daughter Jessica to        a health centre to be vaccinated. The typhoon took the family’s        material possessions, including her husband’s fishing boat, and nearly        took Jessica’s life.

“We were trapped inside our house, but we got a chance to run        outside,” says Ms. Catalan. “We made our way to the nearby tree where        piles of haystacks were, and we climbed it. The first wave instantly        washed our house away. We went up and tied ourselves to the tree and        empty water containers so we can float. We prayed really hard that the        water will subside. We already accepted that we will not live. My baby        got injured in the foot. We were very thankful when the water was        finally gone, but we’re also crying because nothing was left.”

Accounting for unaccompanied children

For those children separated from their families or        guardians, UNICEF is using an innovative mobile phone application to        document and share information in order to return them to their        families, when possible. So far, 130 children have been identified as        unaccompanied or separated. Trained female police officers are following        up on them.

The road to recovery in the Philippines will likely take        years. Much progress has been made, especially in getting children back        into the classroom, restoring safe drinking water to people like Jerome        Nabong and his family and ensuring that children like Jessica not miss        their jabs. But much work remains, to fulfil the promise of child rights        here, and to build back better.

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